A Big Hit in the Market
By Ron Amadon
DAMASCUS, MD. – It was a little over 20 years ago that the Toyota RAV4 hit the market and my guess is even its more fervent backers didn’t realize what a hit it would be. In January it was the nation’s 10th best-selling vehicle and Toyota’s third top seller for lots of good reasons.
Here is what I liked most about the RAV. From the get go it was easy to perform the simple tasks that customized the vehicle to the operator – seats, audio, trip mileage, heat, outside mirrors and a few other items.
All this might not sound like a big deal, but it can be maddening when one has to constantly refer to manuals and/or screen menus to perform basic early tasks. That said Toyota’s Entune smartphone-entertainment system has been criticized for its complex set up procedures.
One minor/major matter was the placement of a cup holder on the center console right where your arm and hand would reach for a beverage while driving. Another nice touch was the storage shelf above the glove box, ala the much loved Honda Element.
The driver faces a Multi Information Display that has lots of multis – average fuel economy, instant fuel economy (although I can never figure out what benefit that is to anyone), distance to empty, selected gear, and warnings for low fuel, battery, tire pressure monitoring system, well you get the idea. A button on the right hand spoke of the steering wheel toggles through the various screens. Other buttons are linked to the audio system, Bluetooth and audio streaming.
But the buttons for engaging the all-wheel drive and the remote hatch opener are buried to the lower left of the wheel on the dash and impossible to engage in a casual glance.
The power lift gate was a nice touch and is now an option on the next rung down XLE model. Cargo capacity is 38.4 cubic feet with the second row seats in the up position and 73.4 cubic feet when folded.
With the demise of the six, there is only one engine choice. It is a 2.5-liter direct injection four with 176 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 172 lb-ft of torque @ 4,100 rpm. While adequate to meet the demands of the typical crossover buyer a little more power would help merging onto interstates and for rural road passing maneuvers. The 6 speed automatic is well matched to the tasks at hand. Our all-wheel drive tester was rated at 22-29 mpg on regular grade unleaded.
Operators can choose a Sport mode that sharpens shift timing, throttle response and can blip the throttle on downshifts. On the AWD models, it will alter torque distribution. But the engagement button is located very low on the center stack and pulls too much of the driver’s attention off the road to find it.
There is also an Eco mode for frugal fuel shoppers. (Say that ten times fast.)
The MacPherson strut front suspension and double-wishbone rear suspension results in a slightly stiff ride. On the interstate there was some wind and road noise in the cabin, but not to excess. It was noteworthy that the RAV held the line on several drives when challenged by strong cross current wind gusts. The test Limited rolled on 18 inch alloy wheels with all season P235/55R all-season tires. Other models with smaller wheels might produce a slightly softer ride.
While I do not believe many people will go off-roading in their RAV pushing the AWD Lock button fixes torque distribution at 50:50 at speeds up to about 25 mph to maximize grip. This might come in handy in this winter of our discontent along with 6.3 inches of ground clearance.
There are three trim levels, LE, XLE and Limited. The top of the line brings breathable SofTex trimmed heated seats with power adjustment on the driver’s side that was quite comfortable. An optional $725 Technology Package includes Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Alert and Auto High Beam.
Some very nice sounds came from the Premium JBL Auto System that pumps out 576 watts wired to 11 speakers. Also in that $725 package were a 6.1 inch high resolution touch screen, all the usual smartphone and audio choices and connections, and traffic and weather information among other goodies.
Floor mats, a cargo net and a roof rack brought the MSRP of the test RAV to $32,679 with delivery. (add entry level price)
The RAV comes with free normal factory-scheduled maintenance and 24 hour roadside assistance for two years or 25,000 miles. And we should not forget Toyota’s excellent record for reliability and long life.
In short, the RAV scores a bulls-eye on the market it is aimed at – young families with an active life style, looking for cargo space, economy, and long vehicle life and with AWD, the ability to get through some bad weather. That is no small thing these days.